Paper, Essay, and Speech Outline

Basic Formula:

  1. Introduction
  • Thesis:
  1. Main Point 1
  2. Main Point 2
  3. Main Point 3
  4. Conclusion

Sample: (from a paper submitted for a Chaucer Literature class)–> This paper looked at the minor symbols of Spring and Winter as they represented Chaucer’s larger theme of life and death in the poem, “The Book of the Duchess.”

  1. Introduction:  Many critics agree that Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem, “The Book of the Duchess,” was written for John Gaunt, one of Chaucer’s acquaintances, upon the death of his wife Blanche.  As such, the poem naturally focuses upon the dominant theme of life and death.  However, in developing the great overarching topic, Chaucer used several minor themes to emphasize and explain his theories about the nature of human life.
  • Thesis: Chaucer uses winter and spring as symbols for life and death in order to compare and explain the contrasting images of life and deathto underscore the theory that both are natural events, and to examine the philosophy of how to live in a world of spring and winter.
  1. Main Point 1:  Winter and Spring are symbols of life and death in that they offer pictures of contrast. (This section included about 2 pages, and discussed phrases from the story that could be linked to winter, spring, life, and death and the contrast between them).
  1. Main Point 2:  The passages that reference winter and spring underscore the theory that both are completely natural events. (This section included about 2 pages, and discussed phrases from the story that suggest winter spring, life, and death are natural events).
  1. Main Point 3: Chaucer uses these passages to communicate how one lives in a world where there is both spring and winter, life and death, and how one deals with the fact that such things are inevitable.  (Once again, I spent about 2 pages on this section, where I examined how these passages fit into the rest of the story and how they worked with the story’s nature as a funeral poem)
  1. Conclusion: The symbolism of life and death, winter and spring, and the naturalism of their occurrence are so important to “Book of the Duchess” because the ultimate focus of the story is how to live in a world filled with both winter and spring.  Chaucer offers his own consolation to people living in winter by reminding them that this is only one step in a long natural process.  Life and death in human lives is as natural to the world as life and death within nature.  He reminds his readers that there must be a balance in everything.  Life does not exist without death, but neither can people dwell on death without remembering how to live.  There will always be winter, so people must learn to watch for spring.  After death has come, there will be a time to mourn and to find comfort.  However, after this, people must re-enter a world of spring with loving, beauty, hope, hunting, eating, traveling, and above all else living.  Death is just one part of a much larger cycle of life.  It is sad, but that too will pass when spring is allowed to return to the heart.

One Response to “Paper, Essay, and Speech Outline”


  1. Paper, Essay, and Speech Writing 101 (aka the Outline) « Deceptively Blonde - December 17, 2012

    […] I’ll try to explain what each part entails, but feel free to ask if something is confusing (fair warning, I’m making up the sample main points as I go.  I have no idea if any of it would actually be provable; that’s where research would come in).  I have a more readable sample w/o all the explanations here. […]

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